* NATO says satellite pictures show Russian troops on border
* Moscow says photos out of date, NATO just rallying members
* Lavrov: NATO forces in E. Europe would violate agreements
(Combines stories from Moscow and Prague, adds NATO satellite
By Gabriela Baczynska and Jason Hovet
MOSCOW/PRAGUE, April 10 Russia accused NATO on
Thursday of using the Ukraine crisis to justify its existence by
creating an imaginary threat, while the alliance's head urged
Moscow to pull its troops back from the Ukrainian border.
NATO published satellite pictures it said showed Russia's
military buildup, but Moscow immediately dismissed them, saying
they were from last August.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen, who accuses
Moscow of amassing 40,000 combat-ready troops near Ukraine's
border, said: "We have seen the satellite images day after day.
"Russia is stirring up ethnic tensions in eastern Ukraine
and provoking unrest. And Russia is using its military might to
dictate that Ukraine should become a federal, neutral state.
That is a decision which only Ukraine as a sovereign state can
make," Rasmussen told a news conference in Prague.
Moscow dismissed the Western concerns as "groundless". It
said Rasmussen was being confrontational and not offering "any
constructive agenda" for Ukraine.
"The constant accusations against us by the secretary
general convince us that the alliance is trying to use the
crisis in Ukraine to rally its ranks in the face of an imaginary
external threat to NATO members and to strengthen demand for the
alliance ... in the 21st century," the Russian Foreign Ministry
said in a statement.
Moscow has proposed that Ukraine's neutrality should be
enshrined in law, meaning it would not be able to join NATO or
the European Union, a motion unacceptable for the new
pro-Western authorities in Kiev.
NATO and the West accuse Russia of stirring unrest in
eastern parts of the country, where Moscow says it has the right
to protect Russian-speakers from the new authorities in Kiev it
Rasmussen reiterated his call on Moscow to pull back its
"I have this message to Russia: You have a choice to stop
blaming others for your own actions, to stop massing your
troops, to stop escalating this crisis and start engaging in a
genuine dialogue," he said.
"If Russia is serious about a dialogue, the first step
should be to pull back its troops."
NATO has responded to the crisis by promising an increased
presence in its central and eastern European members - firmly in
Moscow's orbit until the 1991 Soviet Union collapse - including
in Ukraine's neighbour Poland.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said deployment of
NATO forces in eastern European countries close to Russia would
violate the 1997 Founding Act, a cooperation agreement between
Moscow and the alliance.
"The fact that now, under the pressure (of eastern NATO
members) NATO is forced to consider deploying troops and
installations on territories closely adjacent to Russia, this is
a violation of the Founding Act," Lavrov said.
(Additional reporting by Steve Gutterman and Adrian Croft;
Writing by Gabriela Baczynska; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)